Like so many other soldiers, Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Miller stopped to admire the waterproof socks and gloves on display on Oct. 22 at the 2013 Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.
“I’ve had a pair of these for 20 years,” said Miller, a medic stationed at Keller Army Community Hospital in West Point, N.Y. “They should be an issued item” for every soldier in cold-weather climes, Miller said.
Amy Williams, the president of Hanz Extremity Wear of Duarte, Calif., could only thank Miller and hope that someday, the Army would agree with him.
“We’re here because we want to increase our relationship with the military, and find more places where we can help service members out in wet conditions,” Williams said.
Hanz has manufactured the waterproof outerwear for the better part of 20 years, starting with socks and later adding a line of gloves. Since then, Hanz also began offering flame-resistant gloves – designed to protect wearers from injury in the event of flash explosions.
The company never has been able to convince the Army to issue their waterproof outerwear, or stock it in post exchanges either. For a brief time beginning in 2010, the flame-resistant gloves were available as part of the Army’s FREE (fire-resistant environmental ensemble) program in 2010. Hanz supplied them to Applied Defense Systems Inc., as a subcontractor.
The waterproof wear sells at retail for between $35 and $55 for each pair of gloves or socks, depending upon the layer of protection they offer. All consist of an outer nylon layer, a waterproof membrane in the center, and a wicking liner on the inside. The company also offers an additional fleece lining, for extremely cold conditions.
The flame-resistant gloves are meant to be incorporated in a layered system such as the FREE package. The material is treated with Nomex fibers, which are manufactured under patent by Dupont Company.
Until Hanz can change the Defense Department’s collective mind, soldiers like Miller will have to pay for waterproof and fire-resistant extremity protection out of their own pockets.
Williams and her team will continue to attend events like the AUSA exposition in the meantime, and hope for the best.
“Even if it’s not something we’re selling today, we’re willing to develop something” the Army can use, Williams said.